Handmade Petersen Kolumba bricks from Robertson's Building Products Pty Ltd formed part of a minimalist palette that delivered texture and tone on the external façade of an inner Melbourne residence.

Designed by AGUSHI with Webster Architecture and Interiors, Jennings House makes a bold architectural statement on the quiet, inner-city Melbourne street. Taking inspiration from contemporary Europe, its thoughtful design balances brutalist and Belgian-inspired architecture, with refined and sophisticated interiors.

Combining handmade Petersen Kolumba bricks (K91) with black steel and glass, the design stands out for its clever depth and layering, which softens the boldness and turns the average house design on its head.

“A lot of projects use brick veneer construction to the ground floor, with a lightweight solution on the first floor, but we wanted to challenge this and, in a way, literally flip it on its head,” explains Dan Webster, director, Webster Architecture and Interiors.

“So, the ground floor contains all of the lightweight materials, like the glass and steel, and the top floor is this super strong and bold structure built from a quality face brick. The Petersen brickwork gives the first floor a much more tactile look versus the smooth concrete look we typically build,” adds Bear Agushi, director, AGUSHI.Jennings House backyard

The building’s sunken appearance from the street allows you to appreciate the mass of the first floor more intimately than in a typical dwelling. On entering the site, Petersen bricks greet you at eye level, so you’re acutely aware of the mass and weight being held up by what appears to be a light structure of black steel and glass underneath.

“Petersen bricks provide beautiful tonal variation and, being handmade, they’re quite an imperfect brick, which softens the facade. They help to make the ground floor appear light in structure, giving the perception that the majority of the brickwork is floating,” comments Webster.

“We love the tone of this brick and we knew that the slimline Kolumba brick would suit the architectural form of the home beautifully; it exudes an aura of great quality, and looks simply stunning,” continues Agushi.

An elevated garden on the first-floor balcony adds an extra layer of softness and depth to the strong form of the façade, acting like a fourth material to soften up the predominantly hard, semi-brutalist design. A double height void in the entrance canopy “changes the feeling from the first-floor form being a block, to more of a shell, wrapped around the home, giving it a sense of lightness, and hinting at the detail and consideration to be revealed on the interiors,” explains Webster.

Jennings House facade

On the inside, a large, functional and flexible home awaits, with five bedrooms, a study and three living areas, allowing the owners to come together intimately as a family, or expand to welcome larger gatherings of extended family and friends. Natural materials and consistency of palette throughout contribute to a unified and harmonious aesthetic inside.

“This project saw the pairing of form and texture throughout the whole home, balancing clean lines and restrained joinery design with much softer and more relaxed furnishings,” says Webster.

A highlight in the floor plan is the main living area, which spills out onto a terrace adjacent to the pool, complete with built-in BBQ, kitchenette and external bathroom. The home’s L-shaped design wraps around the outdoor pool area, creating a strong connection between the internal spaces and garden. So, despite sitting on a modest-sized block, the home has a huge outdoor space for the family’s three boys to enjoy. And, facing north, its rooms are flooded with natural light all day, all year round.

Jennings Home is a beautiful family retreat, perfect for spending time together. Webster Architecture and Interiors and AGUSHI are to be congratulated for delivering such a unique, spacious and flexible home that will serve its family well for many years to come.

Photography: Derek Swalwell